How Headless WordPress is accelerating Enterprise WordPress adoption with Adam Davey
Welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast from WMR. Here host David Vogelpohl sits down with guests from around the community to talk about the biggest issues facing WordPress developers. The following is a transcription of the original recording.
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David Vogelpohl: Hello everyone and welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast on WMR. This is your host, David Vogelpohl. I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and I love to bring the best of the community to you here every week on Press This. As a reminder, you can follow me on Twitter @wpdavidv, and you can subscribe to Press This on Red Circle, iTunes, Spotify, or download the latest episodes at wmr.fm. this is a very special episode. This is the 250th episode that I’ve recorded or participated in since taking the show over however many years ago that is, and it’s been a wild ride. I’ve got to talk to so many people around WordPress hear their origin stories here. We’re working on love, love love doing this podcast and so so proud that we’ve made it to 250 episodes. And joining us for our 250th episode we’re going to be talking about how headless WordPress is accelerating in enterprise WordPress adoption and joining us for that conversation very special for our turn up the upset like to welcome Adam Davey of candy space Adam, welcome to the show.
Adam Davey: Thanks, David. I’m super flattered to be asked to do the 250th episode. So thank you very much for having us on.
DV: Yes, of course, of course and you know is really great to see that coming up. I think you know, 10 or 15 years is a great milestone and I think you know headless is an interesting milestone in WordPress. But really what Adams gonna talk to us about today is his thoughts on why WordPress is such a prominent role with enterprise works these days. Like how did why is it there to begin with? Why headless WordPress in particular is accelerating this adoption and then how enterprise origins and think of WordPress versus other headless CMS. And then of course, finally, how WordPress developers and agencies can take advantage of this trend. And I think these are meaty topics for 26 minutes. Well, we’ll jump right in. Adam, could you briefly tell me your WordPress origin story? When was the first time you used WordPress?
AD: I mean, we’ve been using WordPress for over Christ must be 15 or so years now. We we’ve we are WordPress enthusiasts lovers. We’ve been designing and building and optimizing WordPress sites for yeah, like I say, in the region of 15 years. So we’ve seen it grow. We’ve seen it change. But it’s always been a key part of our offering. Like we’re really big fans of offering like highly customized rich interfaces, and getting products to market quickly with a nice interface. So WordPress fits that really well.
DV: We say we mean candy space, right and so D candy space Did you can it gives me some agency right? And did you as a company and did you do WordPress before or just something other than WordPress 15 years ago or was it kind of founded with WordPress being the primary CMS or how did that end? No, I don’t know if you’re around back then when candy space how that evolved?
DV: Okay, I like it. I like it. And it’s getting kind of touching a little bit. Like you’re kind of getting close to telling us what your role there is. But could you tell us just from the high level, what candy space does and what your role is there?
AD: Yeah, sure. I’m the Director of Technology at Kennedy Space. So I look after the tech strategy within the business, and I look after a number of teams as well. QA, front end team, native team, we do a lot of iOS and Android work. We’ve got a really diverse range of clients. I’d say we’ve got a really strong set of logos that we work with, you know, ITV being a gigantic one for us. Really, really big name in terms of like the VOD space. You know, that’s the UK is number one independent broadcaster. Millions of people use that app every single month. So it’s a really big deal. We work with other clients such as Rolls Royce, Mars, Mazda, and that can be you know, b2b or b2c. It depends but our mantra and our you know, our ethos and our within our date DNA really, is to build digital products that are loved by everybody. You know that that love it might sound a bit kind of gushy but we believe in it with every cell of our bodies you know, great building great product. Not just for our clients but for the people that use those products and that love is poured into by our so making products that people want to use, right we believe in the creative power of technology to transform people’s lives. We work within what we call the sweet spot,
DV: sounds like like collectively, like you have a really sound kind of group of, of clients you’re working with, like from the enterprise perspective. It seems obviously is director of technology, you’re very tuned into the technology needs of the products you’re working with. And you know, as a shop that’s kind of using what’s the best tool for the best job. I think it’s really interesting to hear your perspective on when and how these larger origins are choosing headless WordPress and what some of his motivations and benefits are and how they also might think about things differently. So I think that’s really what you’re really well suited for this discussion. That’s great to hear. Real quick from like the super high level. For those unfamiliar, can you explain what headless WordPress is?
AD: Yeah, no problem. Well, I’ll talk about like headless architecture to begin with and how that applies to WordPress. So the same thing applies. So it’s like a headless it by its nature is a content only data source. So like you’re decoupling the front end presentation layer. So that allows you to do all kinds of great stuff, like deliver fast multi channel content, wire API’s. So, you know, having that data store and that content delivery engine decoupled, allows the front end determined determined what it looks like independently of the back end. So having the freedom to select whatever framework you want on the front end. So there are many advantages for that.
AD: Yeah, I mean, I think it is winning in the enterprise. So that’s borne out by the types of clients and the types of businesses that are using it. You know, you need to just look at the White House site or the Sony sites or the New York Times site or the Disney site, right? Those those businesses and those companies and those organizations are drawn to the ease of use and the flexibility and you know, the great ecosystem that WordPress has the brilliant community. How extensible is right, the plugin ecosystem is incredible, and allows you to get products to market rapidly. And the fact that it’s open source and it can be modded, and let’s not forget, it’s free, right. So all of those things are really, really important, you know, powers, I can’t remember it’s somewhere in the region of 40 odd 4043. There you go. You go there you go, and that there’s like over 20 million sites using it. I think it powers over 36% of the top 10k sites in the world, right that’s, you can’t ignore those stats. And it is winning in the enterprise, but I think it wins in the enterprise when it’s coupled with a great platform such as WP Engine to take care of those things like scalability. Let’s be honest, the security is a really important one here, isn’t it? So, yeah, just just installing word onto a server in AWS. That’s one way of going about it but our way the candy space way and the way many others are choosing to use a platform that’s dedicated to secure and scalable WordPress hosting, yet I really appreciate the WP Engine call.
DV: I’m working at WP Engine. And I think like it’s a good point to think about because yeah, self managing and scaling and things like that can be a challenge if you’re unfamiliar with it. And as I think about like the why behind like uh, you know, that kind of notion of like ask why five times is like wire wire enterprises using WordPress. You know, you mentioned things like free mentioned things like the ability to modify it. I mean, like there’s there’s other tools in their toolkit they could be using and I’m just curious, maybe if we can do one more, click down, but we’re gonna take our first break, and we’ll be right back.
DV: Welcome back to Press This, the WordPress community podcast on WMR We’re talking to Adam Davey about how headless WordPress is accelerating and enterprise WordPress adoption. Adam right before the break you told us a little bit about kind of before headless Why was the adoption there. He talked about it being free and customizable back and lots of websites he is it kind of brought the point like there’s other things they could potentially pick. Is it like I’ve heard people talk about it’s easier to hire with WordPress there people know it more and more into they’ve used it before and can use it for content editing. Like I feel like the why they actually use it is more like speed versus say just the software itself is free but I don’t know like what do you think that existential Why is for why WordPress has been winning with the enterprise.
AD: I mean, you know, if, again, hiring is important, as you say, I think bringing products to market rapidly is important. Being able to have kind of freedom on the front end is important. Like when you see the rise of editors like Gutenberg so you know you you’re aiming have the kind of average Joe if you like being able to drag and drop in that’s why it’s winning.
DV: I think that with that speed they’re trying to achieve business objectives a lot of the time to grow revenue, and so I don’t know like to me, it feels like what they’re really addicted to is revenue not the tech in the text, just the enabler, but I don’t know if you see it differently with the customers you work with.
AD: Well, I would say, yeah, for sure. I mean, the customers we work with, I think are becoming, particularly the tech companies. Increasingly tech savvy to keep the digital natives. So, you know, with with a lot of these headless systems, we you know, you want your teams to be focusing on writing great code, and your content teams to be working on doing great content, not maintaining databases, right. teams want to use their favorite stacks, you know, in terms of compliance and security, right? They just want all of those things taken care of for automatically. They don’t want to be have to think about how do I provision instances to scale. They just they want the platform to deal with all of that. So I think there has been a mind shift. I think what we’re seeing is increasing sophistication. And I guess it’s not only catering for the user, which is super important. Content Editor, but the developer as well. Right. So a developer focused platform that provides really nice ease of use around things like deployment to install and upgrades and patching and all of those great things that we just take for granted. Let’s be honest.
AD: Yeah, I mean, I think there’s been I think the pandemic has definitely like, fueled this sort of rush. And I think there is much more of a focus now around people’s digital investments being a kind of tool for business growth, right. So there’s, there’s a mindset change coming from businesses. And that, you know, that that kind of massive push also extends into like, how the business can update, maintain, and really, really have a presence on these kinds of digital platforms. It the whole mindset is changing if you like. So like I say, it’s, it’s super important for us to use a platform that allows us to do all of those things that are just taken for granted. And not let’s not forget, like, we’re not just talking about desktop, right? We’re talking about mobile and we’re talking about out of home, we’re talking about tablets, game consoles, you know that our content management platforms, whatever they might be, need to cater for all of those, all of those channels. And lots of companies now thinking about composable, right? So, you know, Atlas can fit into a composable approach to producing a, you know, a solution, whatever that might be. So, I think there is increasing sophistication. I think people are really budgets are tighter, as you know. And people really need to see the business value being shown very early, all the way through that kind of, you know, software development lifecycle, if you like that that’s really, really important that you know, investors can see stakeholders can see whether investments are
DV: so if I was to summarize that it sounds like kind of in the omni channel world in particular, enterprises often find themselves in that a headless architecture has a lot of kind of inherent benefits. But I guess I’m merely putting some words in your mouth if we connected the story back to why WordPress gained adoption anyways, because of its speed, its low cost of ownership, that basically infinite number of integrations available for it, so on and so forth. Are you thinking that basically those strengths are going coming along for the ride with the decoupled kind of revolution or do you think we’re impressed provides like a unique answer for headless?
AD: I think, well, frankly, I think it really depends on the business, right? We often get clients come to us saying, I’d like a headless web site, we often our response, that is why, you know, there often can be like a lot of benefits for going headless. But you I think kind of drilling into the why is really, really important. Like I say like lots of companies are increasingly sophisticated in this area. And are really thinking very hard about all of the components of their tech stack. And I think it’s becoming much much easier ticularly in this enterprise space, where WordPress is making really good inroads, and it’s really great to see products like Atlas coming on board which you know, bringing the benefits of all that lovely editing and all of that kind of previewing and all of those things that we just take for granted with WordPress, but you know, giving you things like the ability to serve content at the edge really quickly, and you know, doing content modeling, all of those things that Omni channels piece, having kind of moving away from this monolithic architecture, I don’t always like that word, but it’s a more of a microservices driven one where you’ve got a kind of scalability of the heart of what you’re doing. So I would say this, this evolution is just going to continue right.
DV: Like it’s a bit of a heavier cake and eat it too scenario right? You know, you don’t know I’ve never get her get excited about decoupled architecture content creators, like thank goodness, I haven’t had a site. And I think like for me when I think of WordPress and headless when I think of the other offerings out there, you know, that are that are much more kind of field oriented, bring in your own back in interface type type platforms. You know, it leaves a lot of work leftover for the developer to either integrate other things or create their own things. So the content creator has reasonable content creation experience a feels like with headless WordPress, you get to inherit all the goodness that everybody’s already used to using and leverage the benefits of the decoupled architecture. To me that’s like the secret sauce of it, but I don’t know if you agree.
AD: Yeah, I do agree. I mean, I, the content editing experience is often not thought about here, right? What do we want to do? We want we want our ethos is around having scalable platforms for growth, being able to bring things to market quickly. Not only that, having a great customer experience, but having a great content editing experience, and I’m always kind of amazed that that gets batted down the road and not thought about, you know, if your marketing team aren’t happy with how their CMS works, you none of us are going to be happy, right? We all need to be happy with the solution. And that solution needs to grow and scale with your business. So we can’t forget you have to you have to consider all of this stuff at once. It’s very important.
DV: Yeah. It’s funny. The way I like to frame it for folks is I was like, if you don’t pay attention on the content creator side, then every major content change is going to be a dev ticket for your team. So you know a little work now we’re choosing the right kind of framework and we’re stack can help eliminate a lot of problems for you later down the line. Is that roughly how you think about the role of a CMS and software build?
AD: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that you know, there’s the big debate around stacks versus sweets right. You’ve got your your your all in one stacks, which provide a really good solution in many cases, you know, your, your Optimizely and your cycles that are like all in one really huge, gigantic sample monolithic and like I say, I’m not a big fan of that word, but provide a real comprehensive suite of capabilities. Or you’ve got your your tech stacks that are built out best in breed composed that are best in breed Tech Tech components, if you like so that the latter needs more technical know how, once you’re up and running you know, you’re paying for what you need, and you’re not getting locked in, in the same way as you are with those, those suites both of which need considering and both of which can provide excellent solutions. But I think, you know, it really depends. We’re seeing all kinds of clients coming at this from different angles and we you know, we do quite a lot of consultative work with clients to guide them along this path because it’s super…
DV: That’s such a powerful question in the agency relationship. I want to dig a little deeper though, into some of the demand sides of this, but we’re gonna take our last break and we’ll be right back.
DV: Everyone welcome back to Press This WordPress community Podcast on WMR. We’re talking to Adam Davey of candy space around how headless WordPress is accelerating WordPress adoption in the enterprise. All right, well, Adam, right before the break. We were talking a little bit about, you know, WordPress is just general adoption in the enterprise. You’re talking about kind of a role between the CMS and the content creators. And the developers and you were kind of ending it. They’re talking about stacks versus sweets. But I want to kind of switch gears a little bit and talk about the demand side when you work with an enterprise and you’re considering headless WordPress. Are they bringing it up? Or are you suggesting it like, is it kind of a mix of the two like how does it usually play out?
AD: Yeah, that’s a really that’s a really pertinent question. And I would say in the last year, we are getting more and more businesses saying I’d like headless and and having reasons for liking headless and wanting headless. All of those good things security, scalability, ability to choose the front end frameworks, whatever they might be fiddling with your your dev team. That I will only I can see that just increasing and more and more businesses are becoming more and more tech savvy. So I think yeah, that question why is still important, right?
DV: I guess the question is more like, why are they choosing WordPress as this store of content, like versus other platforms like Contentful? Or are they kind of defaulting to things like content for because obviously a lot of the headless world kind of defaults in that way? I’m just curious how you think like, are the enterprises requesting represses the stored data?
AD: Um, from that perspective, probably not the WordPress the need for WordPress comes from the the, you know, the editor experience if you like and the ability for us to be able to provide that kind of that environment that can be extended easily. When we come at it. We come at it from a kind of angle of if you couple WordPress or headless WordPress with a great platform we can also do great things and things up, which are concerns you know, like security has been a big concern with WordPress, and in all the, you know, the decade that I’ve been working with WordPress, you know, if you look after your WordPress instance and you patch it and you maintain it and you use the right plugins, we have never had a problem. But, you know, that, that that image seems to follow WordPress around for, you know, wrongly, frankly. So in terms of Contentful and, you know, there’s other there’s other platforms, you know, you know, for a platform like that, you you again, you’re allowed to use your, your own stack, whatever platform whatever front end frameworks you want, you can focus on the coding. And, you know, the important bit there is having the ability to leverage all the benefits of micro services having having great uptime on the on the platform, I would say like, there’s a bit more of temples all about like content infrastructure, right. So there’s a bit more maturity required from the editorial teams to understand how to structure that content and really that product like that is, you know, it’s used it’s a powerful product, but and it’s used for develop delivering content, multi channel content at scale, right. So it’s a slightly different application.
DV: The nail on the head there, which is that you’re really approaching it from like, Oh, here’s some tech I’m gonna apply to a client. You’re really talking about what experiences they need and then decided to like, you know, with the path that WordPress takes is when they need that really powerful kind of content creator experience is that a good way to summarize the point you’re making?
AD: Yeah, I’d agree. Absolutely. And, you know, peace of mind, really, and I’d say WordPress has it’s been it’s, you know, it’s something that we’re very, very familiar with, and so we can end up with Bruce recently brought, we’ve done work with all kinds of clients of late, but all of them are, you know, getting about getting products live quickly. You know, we can get product live within a couple of months and allow our customers to transact rapidly. For example, we’ve been looking up to the CFM site, we’re a major aerospace company. You know, these these companies see these platforms as growth platforms, right so WordPress is now you know, using WordPress is often exactly the right fit for these businesses.
DV: There’s stages every young hiring there’s some really great points in there and it’s such a great point to end on is the speed that WordPress delivers. And, you know, when folks find it a good fit. It’s good to hear that you’re finding success there with your enterprise clients. This was incredibly interesting. Thank you, Adam.
AD: No problem. I’d like to just give a quick shout out. That’s all right.
DV: Yeah, please do.
AD: But first of all, a big shout out to Alex Butler, who’s our partner manager. She’s just she’s just awesome. always there for us. Always helpful, and just super knowledgeable. And James Hall who’s the head of agency alliances and they’re so he he’s been incredibly supportive of us over the years. This you know, it’s been a really good partnership between us and WP Engine. Long way that you’re right.
DV: Thank you so much. I’ll definitely let them know you said that. I’ll send him a copy of this recording. That was awesome. Thank you, Adam.
AD: Thank you very much pleasure to be on the show.
DV: Absolutely. incredibly interesting. If you’d like to learn more about what Adam and his team is up to, you can visit candyspace.com Thanks everyone for listening to press this the WordPress community podcasts on WMR. Again, this has been your host David Vogelpohl. I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine. And I love to bring the best of the community to you here every week on Press This.